Anna Westland

Anna Westland

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Anna Westland

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Start Year

2017 (Cohort 4)

Research interests:
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PhD Project
PhD Title

Intra-and inter-specific variation of skull morphology in Hominoidea

Research Theme

Past Life and Environments

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



There is still no consensus on the definition of a species, and this becomes an even greater problem when attempting to classify extinct specimens. Though some researchers have compared the morphology of extant taxa with that of palaeospecies, not enough is known about morphological variation in living taxa to be able to make estimations about past levels of intraspecies variation.
This project will examine the levels of variation in the skull shape of apes (Hominoidea), both within species and between taxa. Using geometric morphometric techniques, a large sample of ape skull shape data will be collected from museum specimens.

This data will be used to determine the existence of allometric scaling and modularity in all ape species. Additionally, the evolutionary rates of change for various skull traits will be investigated in order to determine if all shape changes evolved together or at different rates. Further analyses will also investigate the possible causes for this variation and the differences and similarities observed: phylogeny (evolutionary history), allometry, and environmental pressures.

It is hoped that this in-depth investigation of hominoid skull morphology will be the first step in using extant species’ morphology to make accurate predictions about species boundaries in extinct species.

Policy Impact
Background Reading



The Brilliant Club, supervised by Joanna Pickets. 04/01/2021 – 03/04/2021.

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